On the brink...

Agenda for Survival'13 was adamant on making us realise the true essence of survival. Being on the ground where the disaster is shaping up gives you a unique perspective. We encountered rain, landslides, long treks and a prolonged wait to be rescued on the week-long field trip to Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh, bang in the middle of the heaviest rainfall event in Kinnaur's memory. In this adventure, we also met people who encounter such situations routinely.

Many people made our journey memorable, be it Capt. J. M. Pathania (DC, Kinnaur), the folks at the Karcham army base, Vidya Karan, Ashok, Raju, the chai wala at Baspa II hydro electric project, Pyarelal and Narayanji, our fellow travellers, ferrying us uphill. The locals who gave us water, showed us the way when we were lost, chatted with us and made our uphill trudge easy. People distributing fruits and hope to trudging trekkers in Tapri and those serving sharbat to weary travellers and survivors all along the devastated Sutlej valley. Sure, government will send help. Policy wonks will argue on news TV. Soon well knitted communities of these young mountains will get back to its feet. Soon tourists too will trudge up and pitch their tents under the clear blue sky beneath the pristine deodars. Life will need to be up and going.

For now at least, the rubble that surrounded us and the angry, swollen rivers has halted all ‘developmental' activities. A few questions still haunt us. Is hydro really ‘green' as some say? What is the cost of the green? Is this the development that we need for future India? What if this is a beginning to a chain of such debacles? What if the impending disasters get worse? What if they are aggravated by our attempts towards mindlessly developing such fragile ecosystems? Do we really need such development? Should those whose needs are few bear the brunt of our needs – more electricity, more food, more land...

The stories in this magazine are based on our encounters in Kinnaur. They reflect our collective determination to question the kind of development good for this fragile landscape and its people.

Sagar Jounkani
Amirtharaj Stephen